Daily Archives: October 29, 2014

Public Domain Horror Fiction – The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs

Readers, if there’s one lesson you ever learn from this humble book blog, I hope it is this one:

Never make a deal with something or someone evil.

You scoff but you know it is true.  Ask a source of evil to make you win the lottery and you will…only to get hit by a bus on the way to cash in the ticket.  Evil has one of the twisted view of irony ever known.

So tonight, in bookshelfbattle.com ‘s ongoing Public Domain Horror Fiction Series, check out the short story, The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, first published in the early 1900’s.  Short summary – A couple and their adult son find a Monkey’s Paw from India.  Supposedly, it has the power to grant wishes.  Sadly, they learn the hard way that with their wishes comes evil irony.


“The other two wishes,” she replied rapidly. “We’ve only had one.”
“Was not that enough?” he demanded fiercely.
“No,” she cried, triumphantly; “we’ll have one more. Go down and get it quickly, and wish our boy alive again.”

– W.W. Jacobs, The Monkey’s Paw

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The Cask of Amontillado – Thoughts, Review, Analysis

If you are one of the 3-5 people who read this blog on a regular basis (make that 6 whenever my Aunt Gertie can figure out how to turn her computer on) then you have probably become exhausted by the virtual Poe fest it has become around here as of late.

What can I say? ‘Tis the season for spookyness.  And few authors are as spooky as Edgar Allan Poe.  Don’t worry.  By Saturday it will be the season of stuffing your face full of game bird and arm twisting your loved ones into purchasing you high end electronics that will coincidentaly become outdated by next Christmas when a slightly modified version arrives.

“Buy the iPad.  No, buy the iPad 2.  No, buy the iPad 3, now with flavor crystals!”

So let’s talk about The Cask of Amontillado, Poe’s 1846 short story.  I’ve posted the full text.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should.  It’s ok.  We’ll wait.

You’re back?  OK good.  For starters, we have Montresor, a character that you might refer to as “an unreliable narrator.”  He introduces the story by informing the reader that Fortunato has irreparably insulted him.  Montresor does not describe in detail what exactly happened, so have no idea if Fortunato did indeed engage in an unspeakable, unforgivable act upon Montresor, or if Fortunato just doled out one of those insignificant slights that we all have to deal with on a daily basis.  Someone accidentally bumps into you on the street and doesn’t say excuse me, someone eats the last slice of pizza you were saving – these things just happen, and most normal people just let them go.

But most people are not Montresor.

For purposes of this blog, let’s just assume that Fortunato erased Montresor’s DVR, on which had been stored an entire season’s worth of Dancing with the Stars.  Montresor will now have to face a life where he not only a) does not know which star danced with who but also b) which stars were judged to in fact be, the better dancers.  Truly, a gruesome fate I would not wish on my worst enemy.

At a carnival in Italy, Montresor meets up with Fortunato and informs him that he has purchased a pricey wine – Amontillado.  Montresor worries that he may have been ripped off, that the wine may only be an Amontillado knock-off.  (And hey, if you ask me, if you’re buying your Amontillado off the back of a truck or from a shady character on some dark street corner instead of from a reputable, licensed and bonded Amontillado dealer, well then frankly sir, you takes your chances).

Fortunato fancies himself a wine aficionado and Montresor takes advantage of this.  Montresor drops hints that he’d love it if Fortunato would accompany him to his family catacombs (because apparently in the Europe of yesteryear, people would just have an underground area where they would store a) the bones of their dead relatives and b) booze because it stays cooler underground) to taste the wine and confirm whether or not it is actually Amontillado.  Montresor furthers adds he’ll get Luchresi to taste the Amontillado instead.  This infuriates Fortunato, as he considers Luchresi to be a rival to his own wine tasting abilities.

It’s basically the equivalent of telling Superman, “Oh no, Superman, you take a rest.  I’ll call Batman to come get the bad guy.”  Superman would totally kick the bad guy’s ass rather than be one-upped by the Caped Crusader.

Montresor leads Fortunato deep into the catacombs.  Now, all this time, Fortunato has been wearing a jingle belled jester’s hat (Poe’s heavy handed way of letting you know that you should consider Fortunato to be a fool).  Fortunato is also three sheets to the wind and drunk off his behind having spent the day at the carnival drinking anything not nailed down.  So in other words, Fortunato is in a very vulnerable state and Montresor takes advantage of this.

At one point, Fortunato does reveal his condescending side by poking fun at Montresor for not being a mason.  Fortunato says he is a mason and shows Fortunato a trowel – an ominous sign of things to come.  However, Fortunato meant the Mason organization, not an actual person that works with brick and mortar.

Montresor chains Fortunato to a wall in a small area and then walls it up with bricks.  As he does so, Fortunato states a hope that this is just a joke and then eventually says the famous line, “For the love of God, Montresor!”  In other words, he’s essentially telling Montresor to show him some pity and let him go, that this whole idea of bricking him up in a wall is pretty dang unreasonable (the understatement of the year).

When Montresor is about to put in the last brick, he calls Fortunato’s name.  Fortunato does not answer?  Why?  Who knows?  It could be Fortunato did not want to give Montresor the satisfaction, could be that he just gave up and did not want to talk anymore, could be that the exhaustion of the whole experience wore him out and he died.  The real question  – did Montresor care that Fortunato did not answer?

Montresor ends the tale by noting that Fortunato has been in the wall for 50 years untouched.

All in all, a spooktacular piece of literature by one of the horror genre’s classic masters.





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Public Domain Horror Fiction – The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Aliens!  Spaceships!  Intergalactic travel!  The most unbelievable part?  For me, it is that this novel was first published in 1898, a time of virtually little to none technology at all (at least compared to today’s standards) and yet the author was able to envision beings from outer space utilizing technology to attack Earth.

Thankfully, it still hasn’t happened, but it just amazes me that a person who grew up in a time of the horse and buggy could have had such a vivid imagination.

Check out Project Gutenberg’s free copy:


“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”  – H.H. Wells, The War of the Worlds

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Voter Lookup

Hi Diddly Doodly, Blogarinos.  Your friendly neighborhood book blogger here lending a helping hand to those fine folks at wordpress to help you, the reading masses to learn more about voting.  Quick!  Someone nominate me for sainthood.

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